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"He told me he just gunned his bike through intersections without stopping... I think he was living with an awful lot of shame and disorientation and just didn't give a damn," Miller says. "He had this compulsion to prove he was a real man, so he got married and all that stuff. But he felt that his life was ruined and he was never going to get it back together."
Cary, when he felt the same way, always had a place to go. Merced calls itself the Gateway to Yosemite, and from the time he was a teen, that was his escape. He and his cousin Ronnie Jones would fish, hike and explore caves. "He never had a steady girlfriend," Jones says, "but I know he had sex with girls, and he'd always doodle in his notepad and make these naked women." Jones remembers something odd, though, about Stayner's reaction to women who didn't live in his notepad world. "We'd go swimming up there, pull up and see a bunch of women swimming naked, and I was down that hill pulling my clothes off, and Cary was hanging back. I'd have to say, Come on, what are you doing?"
Ronald Turco, a homicide detective and psychiatrist in Oregon, says such reticence fits the profile. A serial killer often feels "a profound sense of rejection, usually along maternal lines," and creates a fantasy world in which he has complete control of the fantasy. "If he'd jumped in with those women, he'd not have had control. On equal terms, he can't cut it. On a date, for instance. It doesn't fulfill the fantasy of control."
The FBI, which has not done its finest work in the case, got blistered by critics last week for dismissing Stayner as a suspect and blithely announcing that men already in custody on unrelated charges were responsible for the Sund-Pelosso murders. A few weeks after that announcement, Joie Armstrong was dead, Cary Stayner was in jail, and the feds were finally connecting the dots.
Their next task will be helping local officials study a decade's worth of unsolved murders and disappearances to assess Stayner's possible involvement. Atop the list will be the murder of Jesse ("Jerry") Stayner, shot with his own gun in 1990 while his nephew Cary was living under the same roof.
"The only reason I could figure him doing it is if our uncle knew something about him," said Ronnie Jones.
"That he had maybe killed someone else."